Boks: Win it for South Africa

2007-10-18 11:09

JJ Harmse

When former national captain and team manager of the Springboks, Morne du Plessis, told this current team they needed to create a new story for the next generation, it all sounded a bit dramatic.

The inspirational Du Plessis spoke to the team before their first match against Samoa in the opening week of the World Cup campaign and asked them to win the Cup for the country, as the 1995 glory was starting to fade away.

We all lived that glorious moment in 1995 and what it meant to South Africa. At the time of Du Plessis's comment, I tried to form a picture in my mind of what glory to the team would mean for everyone back home.

At that stage, without any games played in the tournament, the thought of the Springboks having to beat France in the semi-final and New Zealand in the final to create the next chapter of Springbok rugby, made dreaming of glory a bit silly.

It was rather the actual performance, to beat those teams, that was going to be the lasting memory of this World Cup, it seemed to me at the time.

New chapter

Six, seven weeks later, and only a couple of days to go before the final, things turned out rather differently than I envisaged.

With the Du Plessis plea now more relevant than ever, I again thought of what the new chapter will bring to South African rugby and society in general. What the new story this team will tell, would be.

What will the legacy of this victory - one that WILL be achieved on Saturday - be?

Will it be one of personal triumphs or will the ethos of the game prevail?

Will the victory become a personal crusade to Jake White and those who wanted him out of his job (I am one of them)?

Will the conditioning coach write a book on "How I turned boys into men and won the World Cup - The real story?" Will Eddie Jones be credited more than say, Allister Coetzee?

Among the journalists, we often joked on how many people claimed to have had a significant bearing on the result of 1995. Our favorites to pick on were White and Rudy Joubert, who were technical analysts to the side. One often got the impression that they coached the team, not Kitch Christie, in those early days of their careers as coaches.

Professional game

The same happened when Jannie de Beer kicked those five drops against England in the quarter-finals of the 1999 tournament. At least four of management and four of the players claimed it to be their plan!

One of the results of the 1995 victory was a massive profile to national captain, Francois Pienaar. He was instrumental back then for getting the professional game under way and then moved to London in a blaze of glory. Even today, he is a much-respected person in the world of rugby.

On the other side of the scale, it was well reported at the time that Christie, who passed away three years later, had very few of the players he coached to personal glory around his when he needed them in his deepest hours of need.

Will this team be prepared for what they are to achieve, should results go the way we expect? The 1995 team certainly broke up into many factions at the time and only a handful of them are actually still involved in the game of rugby, especially at coaching levels.

More importantly, will the politicians learn from this team? I was at the meet and greet between the team and the deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, last Friday.

Arrested

The deputy did seem a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, perhaps because some of her party members wanted to withhold the passports of the team before departure to France, because they were not black enough.

Maybe she found it difficult to look at Eddie Jones, who was to be arrested when he ever to put his foot back in South Africa, should the wishes of some of Mlambo-Ngcuka party colleagues be granted.

In case you forgot, he "stole" a job from a capable black coach at the time when he accepted the offer of technical advisor. Also, it was claimed, he had no work permit and was to be arrested on sight.

It was heartening to see how Mlambo-Ngcuka soon relaxed and even chanted a war cry to the team at the end of her message. Everyone left smiling.

Now, it is finals time and Thabo Mbeki will be in Paris on Saturday, as was promised by Mlambo-Ngcuka on Friday. One can only hope the chief politician in the country comes for more than the publicity value of the event alone.

Before their departure, Mbeki had tea with the team and told them to forget about the politics back home and to go out and win the Cup for all of South Africa.

They are about to do that. I hope that our president will go back home with the team and then tell his own party and political friends the same thing. Forget about politics; let us support rugby for they have done us proud. And like his deputy, doing that with a war cry that will leave all smiling, not fighting.

  • Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

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